What are splenic injuries?

Splenic injuries are unusual cysts or swollen areas of superficial tissue in the spleen. Injuries can be caused by many different diseases and adverse health conditions, including bacterial and viral infections, abnormal accumulations of immune cells, cancer, and direct physical trauma to the organ. Most splenic injuries do not cause physical symptoms, although in some cases there may be dull pain and mild abdominal swelling. Doctors generally try to identify and treat the underlying cause of injuries to prevent complications. Rarely, an injury can lead to the development of an abscess or cause a rupture that needs to be addressed in an emergency room.

The spleen is a relatively small organ that is located in the upper abdomen near the liver. It plays a role in filtering red blood cells and in stimulating the immune system's response to bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens in the body. Since the organ receives blood and lymph, it is susceptible to infections that spread from the lymph nodes. Splenic injuries can occur when the infection spreads within the spleen and damages the tissue lining. Blood cancers such as leukemia can cause malignant lesions, and blunt trauma to the abdomen can cause deep tissue damage to the spleen.

Another possible cause of splenic injuries is a disease known as sarcoidosis, which can also affect the lungs, liver, and lymph nodes. Sarcoidosis causes small clumps of abnormal immune cells to grow, causing inflammation and swelling of nearby tissue. The resulting lesions may be accompanied by fever, fatigue, weight loss, and constant abdominal pain.

Splenic injuries can usually be detected with the help of computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A doctor may perform CT or MRI scans with the intention of looking for lesions or incidentally noticing them when detecting other problems. When an injury is detected, a series of blood tests are done to look for an underlying cause. Biopsy may be necessary if a proper diagnosis cannot be confirmed with blood tests and imaging scans.

Treatment of splenic injuries depends largely on the underlying cause and severity of symptoms. In the case of a bacterial infection, treatment with oral or intravenous antibiotics is usually necessary. If an abscess develops, a surgeon may decide to remove or drain it with a specialized needle. The symptoms of sarcoidosis are usually treated with anti-inflammatory medications and medications that suppress the immune system. A combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery may be necessary if a lesion is found to be cancerous. If the spleen ruptures or stops working properly as a complication of splenic injuries, it may need to be completely removed.

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